We all love our microwaves.

They’ve made our lives so much easier. Cutting down cooking time, making it easy to reheat leftovers, and more.

But what are you to do when the tray doesn’t spin quite as smoothly as it should? Or perhaps not at all?

We’re here to help you find out what might be wrong with your microwave and offer some simple solutions to fix it.

Why Do Microwaves Rotate?

A microwave works with, you guessed, it microwaves. These waves of energy are shot out of what is called the magnetron of the microwave and are then reflected off of the metal sides of the microwave oven. This energy does not go to all areas within the microwave, instead, the microwave rotates so that tall parts of the food can be touched by the energy rays.

The energy works to speed up the movement of the water molecules that are inside the food. This speeding up of the molecules in whatever you are heating up is what creates the heat. As the water molecules in the food move faster and faster, they put off heat which then heats up the food. The rotation of the tray is a big part of what makes the food that comes out of the microwave desirable and delicious. If the tray is not spinning, you are more likely to get food that is dry, crusty and even burnt in some cases with cold spots throughout.

Food inside microwave
Your food won’t cook evenly if the turntable isn’t spinning smoothly

Why Isn’t My Microwave Table Spinning Smoothly?

It is helpful to first take a look at the microwave itself and see just how it works. The tray does not move on its own, on the contrary, the microwave table is a microwave safe glass tray that rests on a small set of wheels that are located at the center of your microwave. In the middle of the glass tray there are grooves that fit into the teeth of a motor drive coupler that turns the table while the roller guide, those little wheels, turn the table smoothly.

Sometimes the roller guide is small, and sits just near the center of the tray and this is enough to balance it and keep it spinning. Sometimes the roller guard is quite large and rests further toward the center of the table or toward the outer edges. This little set of wheels is crucial to the movement of your microwave table. When you use your microwave and notice that it simply is not turning the way it should be, it is important to take the time to investigate so that you can figure out what the problem is and start to brainstorm solutions.

1. Check For Obstructions

The first solution is to check to see that there is nothing in the track of your microwave oven. We know, this seems silly, of course you would have already checked, but even the smallest crumb of food can throw your roller guide off track and can make the table inside your microwave turn rough or even stop. The roller guide rests within a sunken in groove at the center of the microwave. This can be a very large groove that takes up most of the interior floor, or it can be a smaller groove that the roller guide fits very snugly into.

You should take the tray out, take the roller guide out, and look to see if there are any pieces of debris, any food, any small pieces that might make it hard for the roller guide to move. The roller guide has very small, very low profile wheels so that they do not interfere with the table, so these tiny wheels can get off track easily and can become stuck. Try taking out the roller guide and tray and wiping down the inside of the microwave. Remove any debris, any dirt, or any grime that might be present in the track and then check the roller itself to see if perhaps there are any pieces that are on the wheels themselves as well.

Clean microwave
Clean the inside and remove any food obstructing the turntable

2. Damaged Roller Guide

Another problem you might notice is that the roller guide itself is damaged or dirty and that is what is keeping it from moving. As we mentioned before, this roller guide has very small wheels on it that can get dirty and can get hung up with just about any amount of dirt or grease. The roller guide is also made of plastic. Older microwaves that have older roller guides may have damaged wheels, damaged frames and more that are a result of age.

Though you might think that one wheel is not that big of a deal, these wheels work to move the tray and to keep it balanced. Even one damaged wheel can cause the entire tray to spin jerkily and to stop spinning in some cases. To fix, you should remove the microwave tray and roller guide. Look at the guide closely, spin each wheel individually. Do you notice that any of the wheels stick, if there damage to any of the wheels, is there cracking in the frame?

If the roller guide is just dirty, some warm soapy water and a quick soak and clean can be enough to get the wheels going again. If the roller guide is damaged, your best bet is going to be replacement as damaged roller guides are not going to work properly. As far as replacement goes, these are relatively inexpensive and you can often find the part number listed on the inside of the microwave, normally near the top of the cavity.

3. Tray Coupler Damage

Remember the coupler we talked about at the beginning of the article? This little coupler has teeth or ridges that stick up from the center and that fit into the corresponding grooves on the bottom of your microwave tray. These grooves are specific to the microwave that you have and are specific to the tray as well.

These teeth or grooves on the coupler are plastic, as is most of the internal pieces of your microwave save for the glass tray. These teeth can wear out with age, they can become bent, chipped, cracked or damaged and they can stop fitting the tray that you are using. If the teeth are damaged in the microwave you may need to replace the coupler.

If the coupler is simply dirty you can clean it and this may help to fix the problem. The coupler is a more important part of the movement of the tray in your microwave than you might realize. If the coupler is not catching on the tray or is not snug, it may skip or bump without actually fully turning the tray. Again, if there is visible damage to the coupler you do need to either get a new coupler or work to get that part of the microwave repaired. You can generally find the parts list in the inside of the microwave.

Checking microwave for damage
Check for visible damage to the roller guide and replace if needed

4. Turntable Motor Issues

Another issue you might be dealing with is a turntable motor that is going bad or that has already gone bad. You will notice that if the motor is going out but has not gone out entirely it may work fine for a bit then sputter and stop from time to time. In most cases, a motor is going to go out gradually over time, these do not go from working fine one day then suddenly die the next. This part of your microwave is going to go out namely because of wear and tear and age. If you use your microwave very often, the odds are it is going to go out sooner rather than later.

The fix if you believe that your motor has gone out is to get it replaced. You can do this on your own if you have some know how about replacing motors and you can save your microwave. Unless you have a very old microwave, a microwave that is very specific or hard to find parts for, or a microwave that is very difficult, you are likely going to be able to find a motor and have it replaced. Replacing the motor is often cheaper than replacing the entire microwave.

5. The Wrong Tray or Roller Guide

Another issue that you may be coming up against if the tray is simply not moving correctly within your microwave is that you may have the wrong tray or the wrong roller guide. This most often happens when you purchase used microwaves that may have had replacement parts.

As we discussed earlier, the trays and the turntable motor have very specific teeth patterns that match up to one another. Though you can use any tray in a microwave if yours breaks, this does not mean that the tray is going to match up to the teeth on your motor or that it is going to spin freely. If you have replaced your tray with any old tray, it may or may not spin the way that it should. If you have replaced your roller guide you may have the same problem.

The roller guide and tray, though they are easily removable, are specific to each machine. There is some crossover and you can find some trays that match a large range of machines. If you are replacing any part in your microwave it is always best to make sure you are buying parts that are either made for your machine specifically or that are compatible with your machine.

Taking that extra time to make sure your replacement parts are fitting and that they are going to work for your machine can make a huge difference in how smoothly the tray moves and rotates.

When to Replace Your Microwave

If you are still having trouble with your microwave and you have tried all the solutions that we have discussed, it may be time to get a new machine. You can generally tell when a microwave is not doing it’s job or not working well enough to keep and that may be your sign to get rid of your old, faulty microwave and get a new one.

If all else fails, you may be able to call in a repair company to see if they can figure out the issue. Microwaves these days are more affordable than ever so if your machine is ready to be retried, replacement may be a good option for you.

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Have a great day!

-Craig